Friday, April 07, 2006


Sticky notice: to read the full story, have a look at my book “Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan”. Visit my online bookshop. Order a copy and keep me on the road!

A friend of a friend, and so on. Finally somebody has confirmed that a sofa is available for me somewhere in Teheran. Another taxi, the address is, no wonders, in the North of the city. In Iran, discovering means closing doors, not opening them. The long haired and bearded man welcomes me in French:

”C’est votre maison”, and he smiles with endless joy.

Half a dozen people chit chat down in the carpet. All of them, in different ways, are part of what can be called the invisible intellectual resistance. While the CNN will always display the image of a completely radicalized society with no internal opposition (that only a foreign military intervention could save), a fair number of Iranians would sign up for a Qoran-free society. Nothing can contrast more with the absolute lethargy that I observed in the educated classes of Syria and Egypt.

It is my first night in Teheran and I have the feeling that an underground river roars under the capital. If the Ayatollahs don’t have their feet numb, it should already be causing them tickles. The amount of information and effort is such that I don’t know who to listen first. Hamid directs a university semi-legal magazine and a feminist website. Hasan, is a theatre director who insists in speaking French (as he smiles with infinite joy). Only by opening his mouth, he manages to give the whole meeting a “May 68” aura. Said and his girlfriend, who are involved in the banned left, give me their version of the last 30 years of history. The history of the left in Iran is quite funny and tragic. It was as responsible for the fall of the Shah as Khomeini Islamic crowds, but once the revolution happened it found itself elbowed out from the political map. Their leaders were executed by thousands in methodical and gradual purges in which competing left factions cooperated frequently with the Islamic regime.

Today, the issue is not left or right anymore. Today, the situation for anyone who may rise the flag of human rights, or women emancipation, or even the flag of the right to dance (yes, also considered un-Islamic) is desperate. “This is war for us”, says Said. I tell him that it reminds me Foucault’s perspective, according to which peace sometimes crystallizes inequality and allows a permanent aggression much worse than open war. When he hears the word Foucault, Hasan breaks his pause with a prolonged “Oui!” (And he smiles with infinite joy). His friends complain that he would reply with the same euphoria to the sound of any piece of francophony, regardless it is Foucault, Peugeot, or Gerard Depardieu.

The smiles end when Hamid explains how impossible it is to make focalized politics without ending behind bars. “If you get focused you get caught”. I ask them about their perspective of the Iranian nuclear agenda. While in Western media the issue is perceived solely as a threat to Israel and Western powers, Iranian dissidents think that they will have as much to fear as Israel if the Ayatollahs ever gain access to nuclear power.
“It is something psychological,” explains Said, “as the queen in chess, the government needs the bomb to control the new generations. It’s not as easy as 30 years ago. Today, the symbols of freedom are everywhere.”

The loneliness of those fighting for political freedom today in Iran seems to me absolute. Even South American socialist regimes as Chavez or Lula are unwise enough to show sympathy for the Iranian regime just because they both oppose American imperialism. Pressure is such that intellectuals have started to migrate to the cyberspace, affording Iran to have the second largest blogger’s community (nicked Weblogistan) in the world. Weblogistan has started to be a target of official censorship. “Actually, the whole net is filtered” –says Hamid, as he shows me how by typing “women”, or “BBC”, or even “fun” or “honey” directs you to the message “The requested page is forbidden”. The demonstration leaves my heart accelerated.

The bell rings. Two of the items forbidden by the Ayatollahs enter the room, throw away their scarves as if they had suddenly discovered they had a cat over their heads, and take two bottles off a black bag. One of the bottles is a cola beverage. The label of the other one reads: “Ethanol”. Welcome to the night in the Islamic Republic. No matter what proportions of ethanol and cola you essay, the result (called Rocket Fuel) has invariably the aroma of an emergency room. Over the table, a 1000 Rials banknote with Khomeini works as a bookmark in a volume of Bakunin. Ethanol Cola, Bakunin, Khomeini. Foucault was right, what happened in Iran after the Islamic Revolution was part of the postmodern movement...

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